To the modern eye, the beautifully-preserved platforms along many stations of the Piccadilly line provide an interesting variety of designs for Tube passengers to look at during stops on their commute.
But they also had a far more important role following their construction in the early 20th century by helping illiterate members of Edwardian society know where they were if they were unable to read the station name.
The Piccadilly line was first opened as the Great Northern, Piccadilly & Brompton Railway from Finsbury Park and Hammersmith in December 1906, at a time when an estimated one in five Britons could not read and write.
The line, which now runs from Cockfosters to Heathrow and Uxbridge, is noted for its period architecture on many above-ground stations – but it is underground where some of the most impressive designs can be seen.
Stops including Caledonian Road, Covent Garden and Hyde Park Corner still feature the original colourful tiling which also has the written name as part of the design – while Arsenal still features its old name Gillespie Road.
Other stations with original tiling include Hyde Park Corner, Russell Square and Gloucester Road – but others such as Knightsbridge and South Kensington have been modernised and no longer feature the old patterns.
The original stations on the Piccadilly line were designed by famed London architect Leslie Green, whose Art Nouveau work can also still be seen across many present-day stops on the Bakerloo and Northern lines.
Here, MailOnline takes a tour on the original section of the Piccadilly line from Finsbury Park to Hammersmith to see what remains of the original designs along what is now the second longest line on the Underground:
FINSBURY PARK: Finsbury Park, which was the northern terminus of the Piccadilly line when it opened in 1906, has a series of six vintage balloons rising along the wall – although this commission by Annabel Grey was not installed until 1983. This has been linked to balloon flights held at Finsbury Fields in the south of the old Borough of Finsbury – the first of which was in 1784
ARSENAL: Arsenal is the only Tube station named after a football team, but this was only after lobbying by manager Herbert Chapman whose campaign to have ‘Gillespie Road’ renamed succeeded in 1932. Tiles with the original name are still on the station. Other Tube stations such as Watford and West Ham are named after the areas they serve, rather than the team itself
HOLLOWAY ROAD: Holloway Road, which was given Grade II listed status in 1994, has platforms tiled in cream and brown. It is among the remaining stops on the Piccadilly line which also still has the station name written in large print on the tiles
CALEDONIAN ROAD: The tiling along the platform at Caledonian Road is done in a similar style to Holloway Road, but has a much darker pattern throughout. This was among the stations opened when the Piccadilly line began running in 1906
KING’S CROSS ST PANCRAS: King’s Cross was in a dilapidated state in the 1980s when artist Paul Huxley was commissioned to carry out a complete overhaul of the designs. He decorated the station with ceramic glazes on a robust red clay tile with the aim of making this blend in with the existing 1930s tiles in the connecting passageways. However, after just 20 years, transport bosses demolished his work and replaced it with what he described as ‘bog standard white lavatory wall tiles’
RUSSELL SQUARE: The black, white and green tile pattern on the platform wall at Russell Square, which was one of many Piccadilly line stations designed by famed London architect Leslie Green which then opened in the early 20th century
HOLBORN: This is another one of the central London stations on the Piccadilly line which has since been modernised – and therefore has little to no trace of the original platform tiling. Opened in 1906, the Central line also called there from 1933
COVENT GARDEN: The original yellow and orange tiles for Covent Garden station were constructed in what is now the Jackfield Tile Museum in Shropshire. The station have a makeover in 2008 when the tiles were refitted but in the original style
LEICESTER SQUARE: The tiles at this station are from a 1930s restoration and are meant to show a film reel – a nod to cinemas outside. The shortest distance between adjacent stations on the Tube is between Leicester Square and Covent Garden
PICCADILLY CIRCUS: Piccadilly Circus station – which is one of the only stops on the network that has no building above ground – was given Grade II listed status in the 1980s when it was refurbished, and the above design has been in place since
GREEN PARK: Green Park was originally named Dover Street due to its location on that road, and there are no Edwardian tiles on the platform anymore. The station was expanded in the 1960s and 70s for the Victoria and Jubilee line interchanges
HYDE PARK CORNER: Hyde Park Corner is one of the best-preserved Piccadilly stations in Central London, and still features the original wording on the platform side – although this is also has the unusual addition of a colon between each word
KNIGHTSBRIDGE: This station which serves one of London’s most wealthy areas is one of the most modern on the Piccadilly line nowadays, with the platforms refurbished in a contemporary metallic style in 2005 which covered up the old cream tiles
SOUTH KENSINGTON: South Kensington station – where Piccadilly line services are suspended until this summer for escalator works – was originally opened for what is now the District line in 1868. The Piccadilly line station, near the major museums, was opened in 1906 but has been modernised – with the original tiles along the platform wall no longer visible
GLOUCESTER ROAD: This is another well-preserved stop on the Piccadilly line which features dark green tiles along the platform wall as well as the station name. Again, the Piccadilly line came after the District line stop which arrived in 1868
EARL’S COURT: Much of Earl’s Court station has been modernised over the decades and therefore only a few of the original tiles can be seen – although there are still some brown and light green/blue patterns visible to passing travellers
BARONS COURT: Barons Court is the first Piccadilly line station above ground after Arnos Grove in North London, and has a direct interchange to the District line. It still features original designs including an unusual bench with the station name
HAMMERSMITH: Hammersmith was opened on what is now the District line in 1884 before the Piccadilly line terminus arrived in 1906. The original station was demolished in the early 1990s and turned into an interlinked shopping centre and bus station
This Piccadilly line map shows the central section of the route which was the first part of the line – opened in December 1906
This is the full Piccadilly line map which shows how the present-day line runs from Cockfosters to Uxbridge and Heathrow
Secret code of the Victoria Line: How every London Tube station along famous north-south route has its own distinct mural with hidden meaning about the area
As the world’s second most frequent train line, very few London commuters waiting on the platform would ever have a chance to look carefully at the pretty patterns on the station walls.
But it’s well worth taking a glance when you next travel along the Victoria line on the Underground, for each of its 16 stops has a beautiful and distinctive mural with a hidden pun or a reference to the local area.
The pattern at Brixton is a pile of red bricks, which is a play on its name; Warren Street has a red and black maze referencing the word ‘warren’, while King’s Cross St Pancras has five crowns in the shape of a cross.
Others have a direct link to the locality, such as a mural at Euston station of the former Euston Arch which was demolished in the 1960s, and Green Park showing 15 dots representing an aerial view of the park’s trees.
Further stations refer to local history, with Highbury and Islington showing a nearby historic manor house built in 1271 but destroyed in 1381; and Tottenham Hale displaying a ferry that used to travel over the River Lea.
Walthamstow has an adaptation of a design by William Morris whose gallery is in the area; Blackhorse Road simply displays a black horse; and Vauxhall shows the Pleasure Gardens that were there from 1661 to 1859.
The Stockwell mural is supposed to represent a swan which refers to the famed nearby Swan pub; and Pimlico has a design based on Peter Sedgley’s painting called ‘Go’ which links the station to the nearby Tate Britain.
The Victoria line, which opened in stages between 1968 and 1972, was the first Underground line opened in 50 years at the time – and now runs one train up to every 100 seconds, making it the world’s second fastest railway line behind the Moscow Metro which is every 95 seconds. In comparison, Crossrail will run every 150 seconds.
Here, MailOnline looks at each Victoria line station, from Brixton in the south to Walthamstow in the north. The series of pictures were taken by photographer Mike Quinn and come after an article on the MyLondon website.
BRIXTON: This pattern by Hans Unger is a pun based on the name of the southern terminus of the Victoria line, representing a ton of bricks. The Victoria line southern extension from Victoria to Brixton opened in 1971, before Pimlico was added in 1972
STOCKWELL: The mural at Stockwell station is supposed to represent a swan which refers to the famed nearby Swan pub. The Swan is a popular venue which has existed in its current form since the 1930s, but a pub has been on the site for 400 years
VAUXHALL: George Smith’s mural at Vauxhall is intended to show the Pleasure Gardens that were there from 1661 to 1859. The Victoria line opened in stages between 1968 and 1972, and was the first Underground line opened in 50 years at the time
PIMLICO: Pimlico has a design based on Peter Sedgley’s painting called ‘Go’ which links the station to the nearby Tate Britain. Pimlico was the last Victoria line station to open, in 1972, a year after the extension from Victoria to Brixton started running
VICTORIA: A simple mural designed by Edward Bawden of Queen Victoria, which was based on a silhouette of the monarch by Benjamin Pearce. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Victoria line in 1969 – which is commemorated by a plaque in the ticket hall
GREEN PARK: This colourful design, by Hans Unger, aims to show an aerial view of the trees at Green Park. The station opened in 1906 as ‘Dover Street’ on what is now the Piccadilly line, before the Victoria line platforms were added in 1969
OXFORD CIRCUS: Another tiled mural design by Hans Unger, which is supposed to show the circle of the Oxford Circus road junction and how the Central (in red), Victoria (in blue) and Bakerloo (in brown) lines all have an interchange at the station
WARREN STREET: Warren Street has a red and black maze – a play on the word ‘warren’ – which was designed by the Crosby Fletcher Forbes partnership. It is possible to complete the maze for commuters who can wait a little longer for their next train
EUSTON: A mural at Euston station by Tom Eckersley shows the former Euston Arch which was demolished in the 1960s. The arch had stood since 1837 but it was taken down so the station could be redeveloped – but it is set to be restored for HS2
KING’S CROSS ST PANCRAS: The mural at King’s Cross St Pancras, again designed by Tom Eckersley, is a literal interpretation of the name with five crowns in the shape of a cross. The initial station originally opened on the Metropolitan Railway in 1863
HIGHBURY & ISLINGTON: The mural at Highbury and Islington designed by Edward Bawden shows a nearby historic manor house which was built in 1271 and owned by a military monastic order. It was destroyed in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381
FINSBURY PARK: A site near Finsbury Park previously called Hornsey Wood was used for archery and duelling in medieval times when the area was outside the edge of London – something shown by the crossed pistols in this mural by Tom Eckersley
SEVEN SISTERS: This mural by Hans Unger at Seven Sisters points towards the tradition of seven sisters planting seven trees in the area. The trees have been replaced over the years – including in 1996 by a group of five families, each with seven sisters
TOTTENHAM HALE: This mural designed by Edward Bawden at Tottenham Hale station points to a ferry which used to carry passengers over the River Lea. The surface-level station was opened in 1840, nearly 170 years before the Victoria line arrived
BLACKHORSE ROAD: A simple tiled mural of a black horse was designed by Hans Unger for Blackhorse Road station on the Victoria line. There is also a separate artwork of a black horse outside the station by David McFall called ‘Shying Horse’
WALTHAMSTOW CENTRAL: The famed Victorian artist William Morris is commemorated in this design by Julia Black at Walthamstow Central station at the top of the line. He lived and worked in the area – and a gallery there now displays his art
The Victoria line, which opened in stages between 1968 and 1972, was the first Tube line opened in 50 years at the time